How to bet on Dota 2: Learning from square one

As lucrative as it can be to play Dota 2 professionally, you can make good money betting on it with the same dedication.

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What is Dota 2?

Dota 2 is a multiplayer online battle arena (MOBA) game developed and published by Valve in 2013, and available for free on the steam marketplace. It was created as a quality sequel to Defense of the Ancients, which was a modification of World of Warcraft that became exceedingly popular within the competitive community of the game. The designer of Dota 2 – IceFrog – was hired by Valve to modernize the original Dota into the core of what has now become one of the largest esports phenomena in the world. The international reach of Dota 2 as both a casual and competitive title has led to fantastical prize pools and incredible productions of its major events throughout the year. Though it has healthy competition in regard to the top esports titles like League of Legends and CSGO, Dota 2 has a higher skill gap and offers more rewarding play than any other game in the space, making it a quintessential piece of competitive gaming culture.

Dota 2 has the largest esports championship in the world in both viewership and prize pool, with The International being a massively watched event offering tens of millions of dollars in prizes to the teams that compete. Though it is not as popular in North America, it’s a sensation across the world that gains popularity every year thanks to accessibility and engagement.

Gameplay

If you have ever played League of Legends, you’ll understand a lot of the fundamental concepts of Dota 2 – for a breakdown of LoL, you can find an article on it here – but for those that haven’t, there is a significant learning curve to understand even the most basic aspects of the game.

The game is played on a diamond shaped map with two teams of five players, each playing a unique starting in their own respective corners that represent their bases. The teams – denoted as “Radiant” and “Dire” – aim to maintain control of the map by securing neutral objectives over the course of the game as well as eliminating enemy towers, and eventually sieging the enemy base and destroying their “Ancient” – which is a large structure of power.

Within the map, there are three lanes: one through the middle of the diamond and two across the border. Between each of the lanes are areas called the jungle. Within the jungles on either side of the map are “camps”, meaning spawn points for monsters (or creeps) acting as neutral objectives that – when killed – offer experience and gold for leveling up and purchasing items that make a player’s hero more powerful. As the game progresses, teams with advantages will gain more map control and relative strength over opponents, eventually leading to a siege on the opponents’ home base and the destruction of their Ancient. This marks the end of the game. 

Although the game does involve killing your opponent, the more important aspects are based on map control and the amount of gold and creeps that one team is able to secure over the other. The high level nuances of Dota 2 promote excellent spatial awareness combined with extreme mechanical prowess and an ability to make split second decisions for the entirety of the game. The macro concepts of deciding to take a team fight to secure more map control, or set up to attack the Roshan – an exceptionally powerful neutral objective that hands out items to heroes when defeated – are what often separate two equally skilled teams. 

The end goal is met after one team destroys enough towers and barracks to enter the enemy team’s home base, which eventually leads to the destruction of their Ancient. Getting to this point in the game requires a significant amount of teamwork over a lengthy stretch of time, typically between 45 and 90 minutes. Though the games are grueling, the viewer experience is top notch as industry standards go.

Dota 2 is the most complex and technically demanding video game on the planet, and is very much deserving of its mantle as the most lucrative esports title in the world.

Aug 25, 2018; Vancouver, British Columbia, CAN; Members of Team OG celebrate after defeating Team LGD by a score of 3-2 to win the Grand Finals of the International Dota 2 Championships and the first place cash prize of $11.2 million USD at Rogers Arena in Vancouver. The championships are eSports largest annual tournament with approximately $25 million U.S. in prize money to be awarded. Dota 2 is a free 10-player online video game with two teams of players from all over the world competing against one another in each game. Mandatory Credit: Bob Frid-USA TODAY Sports

How to bet on Dota 2 

A significant amount of an understanding of how to bet on Dota 2 is going to be gained from the concepts for betting on League of Legends. To get familiarize yourself with those concepts, follow this link.

Types of bets

Moneyline – A staple of all sports, moneyline betting is a bettor’s bread and butter in terms of daily and weekly action. Every betting site out there that offers lines to be taken on Dota 2 will have moneylines available and, for those looking to put some real money on the action, they represent the easiest way to get a little skin in the game. A moneyline bet means wagering that one team is going to win with no other stipulations, so the way to identify who you are willing to bet on will depend on the stats you deem to be important. It’s vital to remember that moneylines are subject to heavy vig, and it’s not uncommon in esports like Dota 2 to have a significant difference between winning and losing teams. This is because the skill gap in the game is so high that the better teams stand a significantly higher chance of winning, since there is less luck involved in the mechanics. With all this in mind, you should be using moneyline betting as a significant portion of your bankroll.

Handicaps – Handicaps are what we refer to in traditional sports as spreads. These offer a more lucrative way to bet Dota 2, and other esports, when you develop a solid process for identifying strengths and weaknesses of teams. Handicaps in Dota 2 are typically offered by bookmakers in the form of an over/under on how many maps a team will win or lose by. When a team “covers the spread” on a handicap, it means they were able to win by more than the over/under implies or lose by less than the over/under implies. As an example, Virtus.pro has a handicap of 1.5 maps over Vici Gaming in a best of three match, so if they win the match 2-0, they will have covered the spread, but if they win the match 2-1 or lose in any measure, they will not. Handicaps are a good bet to focus on when you think there is a relatively large or small difference in the skill between two teams, and can be used in place of a moneyline on big favorites in order to get better return on investment (ROI) in the case of a sweep. 

Team and game totals – While the NFL has over/unders on points scored in a game and the MLB has over/unders on the number of runs scored, Dota 2 has over/unders on the amount of kills in any given game. These bets can be made in two ways:

Team totals – Bets made on the amount of kills the individual teams will accumulate. These over/unders are set in relation to the moneyline, with the favorite having a higher kill total set than the underdog.

Game totals – Bets made on the amount of kills that take place in the entire game as a sum of both teams’ totals. This is close to the quintessential over/unders you’ll find on sportsbooks for traditional sports. 

As kill total lines are set in relation to the moneyline, and are thus an extension of it. Betting on team totals is another way to find a better line than betting a team straight up. Game totals can be treated as a measure of the aggressiveness of the teams involved and, if you are able to find in your research that one team is more or less likely to give up more kills to opposing teams, you’ll find a lot of success betting the totals.

Prop betsProps are some of the more exciting bets you can make in any sport, especially so in esports as they provide a great way to really feel involved in what is happening. Compared to their role in traditional sports wagering, prop bets are a bit different in esports – specifically Dota 2 and other MOBA games. While traditional props deal with individual player performances, in esports they deal with objectives across the map and counting stats for the teams. A few examples of prop bets available for Dota 2 are:

  • Total Kills (Odd/Even) – An absolute coin flip of a bet with no actual way to prepare or research. It’s basically just flipping a coin and paying the betting site to do so. Avoid these.
  • 1st to “X” kills – Most sports betting sites offer these types of prop bets in increments of five kills, going up to 20. These are good props to bet on if you are able to identify teams that are more aggressive early. Teams that engage early and secure towers or look for early fights will be good bets to get the first five kills, and teams that are good bets to win the game outright will be good bets to secure the first 10+ kills.
  • 1st Tower/Blood/Roshan – For those who want to get deeper down into the macro aspect and place bets on the finer points of the game, these prop bets allow bettors to make wagers on who will achieve certain thresholds and objectives first in the game. Unfortunately, there is not a significant amount of easily accessible data available for those who wish to bet on objective thresholds like this and, in order to be successful, you’ll likely have to do film study yourself or create some more difficult models using open source data. However, a general rule is that a team with a better Gold per Minute (GPM) rate is going to be in a position to secure map control, making the neutral objectives more easily attainable.

Dota 2 betting strategy 

As with most sports, there’s not a single dependable strategy to finding success in betting, but there are methods that are more successful than others. The first piece of advice I have for those who want to take betting seriously in Dota 2: play the game! Gamers inherently have a much deeper understanding of what it takes to find success in games, and what separates the good teams from the great teams and the great teams from the elite ones. Learning which Champions are viable in the higher levels of gameplay, as well as what the current metagame (the top strategies and exploits in the current patch) is focusing on, will automatically give you a better sense of how to bet on teams.

If you aren’t mechanically inclined or don’t have time to play the game, studying sites like dotabuff that give you player level statistics like Gold per Minute (GPM) and Last Hit (LH) rates, will help you to make better assumptions and evaluations of teams facing one another. If you are more skilled at data parsing and model building, you can go over to OpenDota, pull their match statistics for either leagues or individual teams, and create some really powerful algorithms from their breadth of data.

From a more general standpoint, the most important way to find success in betting Dota 2 will be to focus on top teams against overmatched opponents. Because the skill gap is so punishing in Dota 2, it’s very hard for significantly outmatched teams to overcome every challenge they have to deal with in a game. With the importance placed on mechanical brilliance and macro understanding, better teams win frequently, which means bets on moneylines and props involving first to “x” kills could be very lucrative investments. Teams that are able to hold consistent leads over opponents in objective damage and gold accrued, are going to be able to snowball those advantages into wins at a high rate and, if they are good at playing together, the first blood and kill thresholds will come naturally.

A good Dota 2 bettor possesses solid comprehension of the current meta in the patch, a deep understanding of the strengths and weaknesses of professional teams, and a sound process to exploit things like handicaps and team totals. As lucrative as it can be to play Dota 2 professionally, you can make good money betting on it with the same dedication.

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